Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Historic Ft. Lewis speak out brings together active-duty soldiers, veterans and military families

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Historic Ft. Lewis speak out brings together active-duty soldiers, veterans and military families

Movement to stop soldier suicides and wars abroad gains momentum

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SSG Kevin Baker speaks about organizing inside the barracks after Sgt. Kirkland's suicide. (Photos: Steve Fetbrandt)

This report is from March Forward!, an organization of veterans, service members and military families that is leading the struggle in the United States to expose the military's criminal mental health care system and to stop U.S. wars. March Forward! is an affiliate of the ANSWER Coalition.

March Forward! veterans organized a historic speak out at Ft. Lewis Army base in Washington state on Aug. 12. The event, organized in less than one week's time, built upon the hard work that March Forward! has carried out over the past year.

The main goal of the speak out was to challenge the U.S. military's criminal treatment of troops with PTSD—and to accuse the command at Fort Lewis of murder.

Iraq war veterans traveled all the way from Los Angeles, and linked up with March Forward! members at Ft. Lewis on Aug. 7. We began to prepare for the speak out by continuing the campaign for justice for a fellow soldier, Sgt. Derrick Kirkland, but our efforts turned into much more.

'Justice for Sgt. Kirkland'

Since March 2010, March Forward! has rallied around the case of Sgt. Kirkland, a two-time Iraq war veteran and infantryman at Ft. Lewis who was rated a "low risk" for suicide after three suicide attempts and pleas for help. He hanged himself after being denied any meaningful treatment, and being publicly humiliated by his superiors for seeking help. 

Active-duty March Forward! members in Sgt. Kirkland's unit, who served with him in Iraq, witnessed the treatment he received, and were in the barracks when he lost his life, began organizing against their own command and the mental health care system at Ft. Lewis.

The Aug. 12 speak out outside Ft. Lewis was a culmination of this work. Sgt. Kirkland's mother, his fellow soldiers, and other veterans organized this public event to draw attention to the suicide epidemic, challenge the military brass, and give a voice to the thousands of veterans and their families suffering because of the wars and the mental health care crisis.

Organizing the speak out

Spending less than a week organizing outside Ft. Lewis, scores of active-duty troops and recent veterans were brought into the anti-war struggle.

Word got out quickly about the exciting work being done. March Forward! held a press conference announcing the speak out, which was covered widely in the local media. It became a top story on the evening news. One local TV station reported "Soldier's suicide sparks campaign for change."

With in the first few days, we met a diverse group of soldiers. Immediately, their responses to the Kirkland campaign were overwhelmingly positive. Every single soldier spoke in complete unison about the broken mental health care system, as well as being fed up with deployments. They all expressed distrust with their chain of command, and highlighted the fact that these wars were and are not worth loosing their lives over. Each soldier expressed that, before meeting March Forward! members, they had no idea organizations like this existed. They were eager to get active.

'Justice for Staff Sergeant Hagemann'

March Forward! members and new recruits covered the surrounding area with flyers and posters for the speak out. One of those flyers made it into the hands of Ashley Hagemann, a 26-year-old mother of two, whose husband had just lost his life to suicide weeks before. 

Ashley Hagemann (center) and Mary Corkhill (right), speak about the mistreatment their loved ones received before their suicides.

Her late husband, Staff Sergeant Jared Hagemann, was in 2/75 Ranger Regiment at Ft. Lewis. He had been on eight combat tours, with a ninth on the horizon. After each deployment, he sought help for PTSD. He was rejected each time. By the time his eighth deployment was complete, he was desperate to never to go again. Despite his pleas to the military for help, he was told he had no choice. According to his widow, Ashley, Jared felt had no other option but suicide. He died of a gunshot wound to the head on June 28, 2011. He was one of a shocking 11 suicides in just a few months at Ft. Lewis.

But like Sgt. Kirkland's case, this suicide became much more than just another number. Finding other military families, joined with soldiers and veterans, gave Ashley a vehicle to fight back, expose those responsible, and join the movement for change that brought so many together at Ft. Lewis in the first place.

March Forward! made this happen. We exposed the case of SSG Hagemann through the media attention already generated around our work on the Sgt. Kirkland campaign. SSG Jared Hagemann's tragic death quickly became a national story. Click here to watch the first story breaking the case.

March Forward! has just launched a nationwide campaign around SSG Hageman's case. Please sign the petition to demand justice for SSG Jared Hagemann and forward it widely.

'The Army is guilty of murder'

The March Forward!-organized speak out was held Aug. 12 at Coffee Strong, a veteran-run, anti-war coffeehouse just outside Ft. Lewis. It was the first event of its kind--active-duty troops, veterans and military families banding together to exert direct pressure on the military brass--since the current U.S. war drive began in 2001; and at a crucial time, with the Army reavealing on Aug. 13 that July yielded the most suicides ever in a single month.

Over 80 active-duty soldiers, veterans, military families, and community members turned out to the event. People traveled from all over the Seattle-Tacoma area to attend, including several from as far as Portland, Ore. Several veteran political activists in the crowd told March Forward!: "This is the best political event, we have ever attended."

The panel itself included Mary Corkhill, Sgt. Kirkland's mother, Ashley Hagemann and five members of March Forward!, including members of Sgt. Kirkland's unit, Iraq war veterans and an active-duty soldier stationed at Ft. Lewis. Each told their own personal stories, and each condemned the Army and the U.S. government for throwing away the lives of so many service members.

Ryan Endicott, a former Marine Corps infantryman who served in Iraq and March Forward! organizer, put the mental health crisis in context: "There is now an epidemic of suicides in the military. For the last two years, more soldiers have died from suicide than from combat. This is a staggering number. This is a major crisis. Something is very wrong. … And if this is such a crisis for U.S. troops, imagine the rate of post traumatic stress disorder among the people of Iraq and Afghanistan."

Spc. Joseph Chroniger and Cpl. Ryan Endicott speak about the broken mental health care system in the military.

Iraq war veteran and March Forward! co-founder Mike Prysner chaired the event: "It is our assertion here tonight, that Sgt. Kirkland and SSG Hagemann did not kill themselves, that they were killed by the Army. They were killed by the Army's criminally inadequate mental health care services, and by the chain of command. … Drastic change in needed. And we must be the vehicle for that change to happen."

Mary Corkhill traveled from her home in Indiana to participate in the speak out. "Thank you all for honoring my son by being here. It really, really means a lot to me to know that you guys care." She went on to describe the long list of deceptions and evasions that have characterized her dealings with the Army over her son's death, including false claims that he died in combat and that the grieving family did not wish to speak with the media.

Fellow soldiers of Sgt. Kirkland exposed their eyewitness accounts of his treatment. A soldier who served in Iraq with Sgt. Kirkland, Joseph Chroniger, said, "They did nothing to help Kirkland, as far as I'm concerned the Army killed my friend."

Ashley Hagemann gave gripping testimony about here husband's struggle to get help: "People mocked him. They judged him. They told him to 'man up. Take a sleeping pill. You're fine. It's all in your head.' No, it wasn't. … The only thing he had control of was how he ended his own life. For that I blame his chain of command." Sign the petition demanding justice for SSG Jared Hagemann.

Another of Sgt. Kirkland's fellow soldiers, Staff Sergeant Kevin Baker, said, "The fact that we are being sent over and over to wars we have no reason to fight, then treated so carelessly when we get home, shows that enlisted soldiers have the right to organize internally, within the military, in our interests."

Specialist Danny Birmingham, an active-duty soldier on Ft. Lewis, pointed the way forward for active-duty troops. Birmingham recently returned from Iraq, and has set the example to other troops by taking a stand and exercising his right to refuse to take part in these unpopular wars, and became a conscientious objector. "A lot of people that resort to suicide feel that there is no other way out. Being a conscientious objector is an alternative way out. Obviously the military doesn't want people to know this. Well, I'm going to tell them."

It was a diverse array of speakers, all accusing the military of murder, and calling on others to join the growing movement of veterans and their families to hold the U.S. government accountable. 

The event literally brought the issue of soldier suicides to the military's doorstep. March Forward! made this happen.

March Forward! was able to show that the military is incapable of handling the crisis that it has created, and the only real way to make change is through the rank-and-file, along with military families.

The speak out and organizing effort at Ft. Lewis was a major step in building the movement for change. We are now planning for more such events in the months ahead.

This historic speak out was made possible by the support of people like you. Please donate to help this important project to expose the military's criminal mental health care system and to stop the wars. We urge you to make a generous donation today.


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Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The Autumn of Resistance

London bulletin

07730 612105
The Autumn of Resistance is fast approaching. The riots showed there is an anger in this country that needs to be directed. The new student term will bring in a layer of activists, and in October the European conference and anti-war mass assembly will take place. We are calling on Counterfire members to prepare for these events now:

London fresher's Planning Meeting
Monday 5th September
ULU, Malet Street

The student protests of last year saw thousands on the streets, with anti-cuts events and the Arab revolutions highlighting an increased political awareness and the potential for radical political action. Counterfire is planning to have as wide a reach as possible within student politics from the start of the new academic year, with stalls at Fresher's fairs across the country.  In London we will hold a Fresher's planning meeting to prepare for this. If you are a returning student, new student or are able to help during this period do prioritise this meeting. In the meantime, if you are able to help during the Fresher's period then reply to this email with details of the dates you are available.
Europe Against Austerity Conference
1 October
10am-5pm, Camden Centre, London, WC1 9AU

The Europe Against Austerity Conference on 1 October could is a starting point for a Europe wide fight against Austerity. The potential for co-ordinated action will depend on the number and breadth of those attending. Hundreds of European delegates from a variety of organisations have already registered. Here in the UK we need to ensure there is a broad representation of activists booked- therefore we are asking all Counterfire members to register for the conference now and to contact anti-cuts activists and groups to get them to do the same. To register click on the link:

Locally regular CoR stalls and leafleting sessions should take place. If you need help with this please get in contact.
Anti-war mass Assembly
Saturday 8 October
Trafalgar Square
12 noon

The anti-war mass assembly will take place on the 10th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. A mass turn out in Trafalgar Square on 8 October will send a message to MPs and the government that it's time to go. Sign the pledge and spread the word- involve yourself in local STW activity and encourage meetings and leafleting sessions to take place.

Recent events in Liyba show we have to demand the NATO forces get out. Read John Rees' current article on the situation:

Anti-EDL Demonstration
3rd September
11am Weavers Field
Tower Hamlets

The Anti-EDL no place for hate demonstration is an important event in combating Islamophobia and showing the strength of people opposed to the EDL and racism. Counterfire members to across London should take part in this demonstration. If you attending please reply to this email so that we can organise activity on the day.

Counterforum: The working class ain't what it used to be
Thursday 25th August,
Housmans Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road (nearest tube: King's Cross)

This is the fifth in a series of theoretical forums hosted by Counterfire to discuss the changing nature of the working class. With: 
Owen Jones- author of Chavs: The demonization of the working class
Dan Poulton- writer and producer
Facebook event:

Libya-What next?

Libya - what next?

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 04:15 AM PDT

John Rees on Libya:

'There will be no tears for the end of the Gaddafi regime if that is indeed what we are watching. The Gaddafi regime was a brutal dictatorship and it deserved to be overthrown just as much as that of Ben Ali's in Tunisia or Mubarak's in Egypt. But, unlike the defeat of Ben Ali or Mubarak, the end of Gaddafi has not been brought about mainly by a popular revolutionary rising. It has been brought about by a military victory in a civil war in which the rebel side has become largely dependent on western military fire power.

So the question now posed is this: in whose interest will the new rulers of Libya act? NATO is already saying that it will work with the Transitional National Council. This, more of a threat than a promise, should be no surprise. The point of the western intervention in Libya was to gain a foothold in the fast moving Arab revolutions and to create a compliant regime by making it militarily and economically dependent on the west in a way in which, say, the Tunisian UGTT or the Youth Coalitions of Egypt could never be said to be.

So the major powers will be looking for payback. They will want an Arab regime which is a home for western military bases. They will want a regime that is supportive of Israel (and the TNC has already made supportive statements in favour of the 'war on terror'). And they will want a Libya that is safe for BP, Shell and other western corporations, whether from the oil industry or elsewhere.'

Read in full HERE.


Tuesday, 16 August 2011

A Narrative of Unrest-who's going to this?

Student protesters declare victory as Glasgow University sit-in ends

Please congratulate them HERE. If you send to me too I'll add some of your comments to a post on our site. Ta. x

by T la Palli on August 15, 2011
Students at the University of Glasgow sit-in are celebrating this week after Principal Anton Muscatelli conceded defeat in his attempt to impose swingeing cuts on the University.The u-turn comes after six months of pressure exerted by students occupying the Free Hetherington led to concessions ensuring a new postgraduate club, no further cuts to courses and no compulsory redundancies at the University.
As part of the deal secured by the Free Hetherington occupation, students will be able to quiz Principal Muscatelli directly in a mass open meeting in October over the lack of perceived transparency of management decisions at the University.
In exchange the students will end their six-month sit-in at 13 University Gardens to allow management to convert the former postgraduate club into lecturing space.
Students say they are enthusiastic about the outcome:
"Six months after management refused to engage with us, we've finally won these demands. Direct action and direct democracy work – we've proved that and management have accepted it, which in itself is a huge achievement." - James Humphries, 24, postgraduate student in Philosophy.
They were keen to emphasise that the end of the occupation does not spell the end for activism on campus:
"While we've achieved a lot on campus this year the fight absolutely does not end here. We will continue our campaign against tuition fees and ensure management keep their end of the bargain. We will be back" - Laura Jones, 24, student in History of Art.
On 1st February 2011, a group of students entered the disused former Hetherington Research Club on campus and pledged to remain in the building until their demands, which included no course cuts and the reopening the postgraduate club, were met. In the past six months, a large body of students and staff have continually kept up pressure.
For almost two-hundred days the students have been sleeping, studying and campaigning in the former postgraduate club. Their efforts have received international acclaim and attracted visits from celebrities including director Ken Loach, singer-songwriter Billy Bragg and Scottish Makar Liz Lochhead. A packed schedule of events, lectures and workshops has made the Free Hetherington a focal point on campus for thousands of students and members of the local community.
As the longest-running student occupation in UK history, the Free Hetherington has become a lasting symbol of the wave of anti-tuition fees protests and occupations that swept the country in December 2010.
Students will bring the occupation to a conclusion around the end of August. A spokesperson for the occupation said the date would be announced in due course.
Interested media should contact glasgowoccupation@gmail.com.
A bullet point version of the agreement is available. A finalized version is being confirmed with management. In short:
The Agreement
1. No more course cuts.
2. No compulsory redundancies.
3. A new postgraduate club, to be opened in the next year.
4. No cuts for student services, a guarantee of transparency with the SRC (Student Representative Council).
5. A public meeting with the principal Anton Muscatelli, where students and staff may address their worries.
6. No repercussions from the University for staff or students involved in the occupation.
7. An assurance that no information will be volunteered to the police about people involved.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Post riots planning mtg this Thursday at ULU

Dear CoR supporters, 

Please come to the London Activists planning meeting this Thursday. 

As riots erupted across Britain, activists need to come together to plan our response to the government's brutal cuts and austerity agenda, an agenda which makes young people pay for a crisis they did not cause, an agenda which gives them no stake in society.  As our communities are deprived of jobs, services and access to education, a united response is required.  

The Coalition of Resistance is holding a planning meeting for London activists, where we we can bring together ideas for actions, engagement and solidarity, against the brutalisation of young people by the police and government.

Date: Thursday 18 August
Time: 6.30-8pm 
Place: Room 3A ULU (University of London Union), Malet St, London, WC1. 

Please forward this email and here's the facebook group for you to invite friends: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=147869565296694

Friday, 12 August 2011


Give Our Kids a Future! A North London Unity Demonstration


This march is called by The North London Assembly, a temporary Assembly which saw 70 local community activists meet at the North London Community House on Tuesday 9th August to discuss our reaction to the riots of early August in Tottenham and Hackney. It includes people from many Turkish and Kurdish community groups, like Day Mer and Gik Der, and also the Haringay and Hackney Alliances for Public Services who are all supporting this march.
We state that this is not us seeking to represent the community but it is our attempt to try to bring unity to the community in which we live. There are many different views on the events but we are seeking the most positive outcome from them.
This will be a positive and peaceful march with an Assembly at the end for people to express what they are thinking about recent events


Statement 10/8/2011

A North London Unity Demonstration

Saturday 13th August
Assemble Gillet Square, Dalston, N16 at 1pm. March to Tottenham Green, N15

Our communities need a united response to both the riots and the causes of despair and frustration that can result in riots.

We demand:

We are responding to the events of the last few days, in particular the Tottenham protest over the killing of Mark Duggan and the riots that followed in Tottenham and Hackney.

By coming together and calling for unity we want to encourage all sections of our local communities, young and old,
black and white, residents and workers, to work together to find solutions to some of our long-standing problems.

We know there are all kinds of strong feelings and differing views. We do not claim to represent the whole community, but merely seek to promote unity in the communities in which we live.

Simply labelling rioters as opportunistic criminals does little to relieve tensions and provides a poor explanation for the worst riots in decades. While the shooting of Mark Duggan provided the trigger, against a background of oppressive policing, especially towards ethnic minorities, the root causes are deeper.

Our communities have been blighted by high levels of deprivation, poverty and lack of opportunity for decades. Inequality is growing and recent funding cuts to local services, particularly youth facilities, along with rising unemployment, and cuts to EMA and benefits have exacerbated the conditions in which sections of frustrated young people turned to rioting, which unfortunately has resulted in people losing their homes and small/family businesses losing their livelihoods.

Britain is a wealthy country, but the economic crisis created by greedy bankers and financial speculators is further impoverishing already poor areas like Tottenham and Hackney. The £390 billion of combined wealth of the richest 1,000 people in Britain should be redirected to fund the services we all need.

In the last few months we have seen mass local protests against cuts, student occupations to defend free education, half-a-million strong demonstration on March 26, and 800,000 public service workers out on strike on June 30th.

We need to build on these and other inspiring local and national struggles. Let's work together for a decent society, based not on greed, inequality and poor conditions, but on justice, freedom, sharing and co-operation.

North London Unity Demonstration supported by the Haringey Alliance for Public Services, Hackney Alliance for Defending Public Serices, Day-Mer (Turkish and Kurdish Community Centre), NLCH (North London Community Centre), Day-Mer Youth, Alevi Cultural Centre, Fed-Bir, Kurdish Community Centre: Roj Women, Halkevi, Gik-Der (Refugee Workers Cultural Association). Britania Peace Council: Hundred Flowers Cultural Centre. TOHUM. Socialist Party, Youth Fight For Jobs, Right To Work, Red Pepper.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Counterfire recent articles

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09 Aug 2011 10:48 pm

It's not from the reporters and well-heeled media pundits where you can find insight into the London riots, but from the people they are obliged to interview, argue Joe Glenton and Jo Gough.

09 Aug 2011 08:06 pm

FE student Amy Addison-Dunne argues that most politicians live in such a different reality, their opinions on the riots can be of little value.

09 Aug 2011 05:39 pm

Politicians and journalists have rushed to blame the riots on 'sheer criminality'. The same cry from the defenders of the status quo has echoed down the centuries after every riot in London.

09 Aug 2011 05:02 pm

Teresa MayThe moralistic backlash from the Con-Dems and the media has begun in earnest. Jonathon Shafi takes on the reactionary critics, with reference to a challenging BBC interview with influential commentator Darcus Howe.

09 Aug 2011 12:27 pm

Called by Coalition of Resistance and Black Activists Rise Against the Cuts - What do the recent riots in Britain mean? Why are they happening? What can we do in response? All welcome to come and discuss this and decide on what to do next.

08 Aug 2011 12:25 pm

Lindsey Oil Refinery strikers 2009Two years after construction bosses got a bloody nose when they tried to smash union organisation on major construction sites, they think enough water has passed under the bridge to give it another go. Richard Allday argues they can be

07 Aug 2011 09:27 pm

Excessive policing in Europe and the United States shows that governments are resorting to ever more coercive measures in order to save their neoliberal project, writes Dan Poulton.

07 Aug 2011 09:02 pm

In the most unequal borough of the UK, young people do not riot just for the fun of it. Poverty and a lack of opportunities are the deeper causes behind the public anger that erupted in Tottenham over the weekend, argues Elly Badcock.

07 Aug 2011 03:24 pm

Regularly updated and challenging the portrayal of the London rioting as simply a mass outburst of criminality without any roots in social problems and police harassment.

07 Aug 2011 01:56 pm

small US flagThe world's leading economy has had its credit rating reduced as the ability of the US political system to manage the crisis is called into question. James Meadway looks at the implications.

07 Aug 2011 01:11 pm

A first hand account of last night's riot in Tottenham by Reuben Bard-Rosenberg

07 Aug 2011 03:32 am

Tottenham riot<="">h2>

05 Aug 2011 11:13 am

As fear spreads across the world's stock markets, political leaders offer no real solutions. This might be the end of the Euro in its current form, argues James Meadway.

04 Aug 2011 06:47 pm

From Rebellion to Reform in Bolivia is an important contribution to understanding Bolivian politics, critiquing the politics of Evo Morales in an effort to analyse the limitations of his rule and the potential of the social movements that brought him to power.

04 Aug 2011 02:19 pm

After extensive lobbying and boycott threats from the UK and around the world, the International Gay and Lesbian Youth Organisation has withdrawn its annual conference from Israel.

04 Aug 2011 08:13 am

The UN Assembly vote on a Palestinian state is an important issue, but statehood can only be a first step in the struggle for the Palestinians' rights, argue Joseph Daher and Hesham Zakai.

03 Aug 2011 06:41 pm

Discuss some of the big issues facing socialists and campaigners today.

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